Voluntary family planning is one of the great public health advances of the past century. In the midst of the the “worst humanitarian crisis since World War II,” organisations that deal with family planning and contraception in Africa have become increasingly important. The President of the United States signed a ban earlier this year on federal money going to some of these organisations; that means the responsibility now falls on us, citizens of the world, to contribute in some form or another.
Family planning is important in every corner of the world: it reduces infant mortality risks, prevents sexually transmitted diseases, reduces the risk of producing disabled children, and prevents adolescent pregnancies. Most of the countries with the lowest rates of contraceptive use, highest birth mortality and highest fertility are in Africa.
The increased use of family planning leads to economic development; women are more likely to work and their children more likely to be healthy and educated. A study shows that one dollar used to slow population growth can be 100 times more effective in raising income per head than one dollar to expand output. There is an estimated 140%-600% return on investment in family planning methods due to health care savings and economic development.
The image is a global heat map that shows the percentages of women using modern birth control. Blue shows a higher percentage, red shows a lower one. In Africa, 53% of women of reproductive age have an unmet need for modern contraception. For Sub-Saharan Africa, this percentage falls under 20%. This is of particular concern, especially in the context of generalised epidemics. A growing population, limited access to contraception, cultural and religious opposition, poor quality of available services, gender-based barriers and spousal disapproval all contribute to this situation.
An estimated 90% of women of childbearing age in Africa live in countries with restrictive abortion laws. Even where the law allows abortion under limited circumstances, it is likely that few women in these countries are able to navigate the processes required to obtain a safe, legal procedure. The World Health Organisation defines unsafe abortions as “those performed by unskilled individuals, with hazardous equipment, or in unsanitary facilities.”
Spread the word
As with any cause, one of the most important actions you can take is informing your peers. Therefore, pushing out the information to various social media platforms has the potential to touch the hearts of so many other people who can contribute. Caring is cool, so let’s do our duty and flood social media with informative and call to action messages.
Finally, put your money where your mouth is. Here are a few organisations doing a good job in this space, and there are many others.
We may not be able to rely on our politicians during this humanitarian crisis, but let’s make sure those who need it most can rely on us.
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